First appearing in the 1970s, the role of project manager has expanded in scope and gotten more complex over the years. The trend is toward the generalization of the notion of project: the need to react to market fluctuations is pushing an increasing number of realizations to be carried out in project mode.
Projects are increasingly less submerged by operations. They transcend all sectors and are gaining in visibility. The question of the place of project management within the company is also becoming a core question of the profession.
TWO ORGANIZATIONAL STYLES
Project managers can work for the functional department in question, a centralized project office, or both entities at the same time. It all depends on what is usually done in the sector, the strategic aspects of the project, corporate culture and defined priorities.
Two main types of organization are used nowadays:
Decentralized: The project managers are integrated into each department concerned and depend directly on the operations people of their department.
Matrix: The project managers work within a project office that centralizes all the project expertise. In this case, they generally have two reporting relationships: a permanent one with the project office and a temporary one with the department concerned by the current project.
THE GROWING POPULARITY OF MATRIX STRUCTURES
Making their appearance a few years ago, matrix organizations are today a major trend in large organizations. They allow large companies to provide flexibility, while standardizing their practices, particularly abroad. The advent of globalization has forced companies to be able to manage their projects with a certain homogeneity throughout the world.
In the case of a matrix structure, project managers are paired with consultants working for the various units. When a project starts, a team of project managers is assigned to the unit in question. A sponsor can also be appointed to the unit to track the project. The project managers report to both the project office and the unit sponsor.
ROLE OF THE PROJECT OFFICE
A project office centralizes the company’s project expertise to leverage acquired experience. It provides methods and standards to standardize the company’s practices, while allowing for some flexibility to be able to adapt to each project.
It can have many functions, depending on the priority given to projects within the company:
- Provide standards, documents and back office support in order to standardize project management practices
- Manage the project managers
- Train the company in project management
- Initiate new projects